Reading The Visions Of Revelation

Reading The Visions Of Revelation October 1, 2018

Is the Book of Revelation a narrative or is it something else? Something else says Craig Koester in Revelation and the End of All Things. Here is his “outline.”


I quote Koester’s brief explanation, and his approach undoes the “then this and then this and following that then this” approach. Rather than a linear reading Revelation is to be ready cyclically with each cycle to be taken as a centralization of the themes of the Book.

Those who read Revelation as a whole encounter visions that alternately threaten and assure them. With increasing intensity the visions at the bottom of the spiral threaten the readers’ sense of security by confronting them with horsemen that represent conquest, violence, hardship, and death; by portents in heaven, earth, and sea; and by seemingly insuperable adversaries who oppose those who worship God and Christ. Nevertheless, each time the clamor of conflict becomes unbearable, readers are transported into the presence of God, the Lamb, and the heavenly chorus. These visions appear at the top of the spiral. Threatening visions and assuring visions function differently, but they serve the same end, which is that readers might continue to trust in God and remain faithful to God.

It is easy to get lost and dizzied by these cycles but the music of Revelation keeps us focused: “Revelation is designed to unmask false sources of security while beckoning readers to join the heavenly host in singing praises to God and the Lamb. The musical compositions listed above direct our attention to Revelations festive scenes of worship, reminding us that these scenes show us the goal of Gods saving work.”

[Thus:] seven messages to the churches (Rev. 1-3), seven seals (Rev. 4-7), seven trumpets (Rev. 8-11), unnumbered visions (Rev. 12-15), seven plagues (Rev. 15-19); and more unnumbered visions (Rev. 19-22). Visions celebrating the triumph of God occur at the end of each cycle (4:1-11; 7:1-17; 11:15-19; 15:1-4; 19:1-10; 21:1-22

Three features of this Book deserve mention: Revelation is a “revelation” (apocalypse), a prophecy and a letter — all at once.

1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,  2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,  5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

As a revelation it is a message communicated from God the Father through the Son to John of Patmos. As prophecy we have a God-inspired message given to a messenger who relays the revelation to the churches about their present and their future. As a letter it is sent (really) to seven churches in Western Asia Minor, churches that were monitored in some way by the apostle John who was in Ephesus but banished to Patmos.

Yes, in this revelation-prophecy-letter John says the message comes from “him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” That’s Yahweh and Jesus and the Spirit emerges most likely in v. 4: “from the seven spirits who are before his throne.” The language about Jesus here comes from Psalm 89: 27, 37 (“I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” …  “It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.” Selah)

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (1:7-8).

As Ian Paul states, the Book is both from and about Jesus Christ (Revelation).

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